Cleaned-up Queers still pack a punkish punch

The war is over now, but many still remember the days when drunken jocks in souped-up Trans Ams terrorized the streets, making life difficult for skinny and malnourished punk rockers. Attacks against the funny-looking rejects were frequent, and the cry, “Hey, you punk-rock faggots!” seemed to ring from the window of every passing car. Punks were an endangered species.

The Queers, together off and on since 1981, clearly recall the abuse. Having lost more fights than they won, the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, pop-punkers look back on those dark days with something less than nostalgia. Naturally, when it came time to name the band, it made sense to beat bullies to the punch (no pun intended).

“Our name got a rise out of a lot of people,” singer Joe Queer says with a chuckle, from the tour van somewhere outside Colorado Springs, Colorado. The moniker took much of the sting out of being called “queer” or “faggot”. To the disappointment of some gays, there are no actual homosexuals in the band.

“Or at least not that I'm aware of,” Queer quickly adds.

Touring is easier these days for Queer, who gave up liquor and drugs five years ago. “I was a drunk and druggie,” the singer admits wryly. “It was an off-and-on thing for years. I don't miss it. Of course, I wasn't just sipping too many gin and tonics at the bridge club.”

Queer is more than familiar with the damage that chronic abuse can cause. In March, the Queers were touring with a band called Cute Lepers, whose young guitarist died of an overdose of pills and booze mid-tour.

The Queers are also familiar with Vancouver, having been here “about five times”. Joe loves our often-rainy city, if only for local legends like cub and the Smugglers, both of whom he is obviously a fan. As aficionados of, shall we say, less edgy rock 'n' roll, the Queers are not the abrasive and noisy punks they were when original singer Wimpy Rutherford was at the helm. Nowadays, the band owes almost as much to the Beach Boys as it does to the Ramones—which is not to say it doesn't pack a punch. “Houston, We Have a Problem” from the Queers' latest release, Munki Brain, is exactly the sort of contagious pop-punk gem that has earned the band a loyal following worldwide.

Though Munki Brain is two years old now, Joe notes that the band is still touring for the album.

“We're also supporting some live shit we recorded,” he adds.

Vancouver and Victoria are the only Canadian dates on the tour, which will take the Queers across the American Midwest and end in New York City on June 28. Jocks in NYC will have to be a little more creative with their insults if they intend to annoy these Queers. Punk-rock faggots? They've heard it all before.

The Queers play the Red Room on Wednesday (June 10).